Sadhu in Varanasi images - 56/1.2 & 35/1.4

Started 3 months ago | Discussions
yrc4 Forum Member • Posts: 69
Re: Organised photo shoot business/pics for money etc.
1

deednets wrote:

Babu K wrote:

yrc4 wrote:

I like them especially because they’re fully aware of your presence. BTW, the question of posed shots vs stealthy has haunted the practice of photography from the very day the first cameras were brought to India in the 19th century. In fact, the use of cameras by European officials and civilians first, then later by traveling native photographers who would go from village to village with their large format cameras and elaborate studio tents and props has had a deep influence on how people react to cameras all over India. Read a fine book called the History of Photography in India to get a sense of this. Also look at the amazing work of Raghubir Singh.....one of the great photographers of the country. Some of his work on Varanasi is on the internet.

With the advent of camera phones the Indian attitude to photography has changed enormously. Most Indians have mobiles, and they're all photographing like there's no tomorrow. I remember 10 or 20 years ago often being told off by watchmen not to photograph fun fairs or even some fancy new building, as they were suspecting I had some nefarious motive. Now it hardly matters. On the other hand, sometimes it's hard to do stealth photography, as the moment you point a camera in someone's direction, they will strike a happy pose, basically ruining the shot - even if they just want to be nice.

Sadhus, especially in places like Varanasi, are usually very eager to pose, afterwards often asking for 'baksheesh'. In Kathmandu, there are many fake sadhus, who just put on some outlandish dress to attract the attention of tourists and consequently a photo fee.

You sound like you have a deeper insight into all matters Indian!

I am also aware of those "fake" Sadhus, like there is only genuine in the West? My take on "fake" or not is not an easy one.

Here is how I try - possibly partially in vain - to be genuine and at the same time not make a fool out of myself:

I ALWAYS talk to the people first, typically sit down so this never is a fleeting "visit".

  • Sadhus live on donations only, so asking for bakshees might be a legitimate one as not every foreigner knows how the system works.
  • NONE of the guys in those photos asked for donations. I did however offer to buy them a chai. "Them" as singular one after the other, they weren't part of any group.
  • I guess we all have our theories about how the world ticks. My theory is that a lot of fake disintegrates if you are prepared to invest some time into an encounter.

Note that I also donate money to beggars that appear genuine to me. Ai am of course aware of organised begging but leprosy is what it is - and life simply can't be just groovy when some limbs, feet of fingers are missing. If this then still is fake so be it and let it be their happy day.

I DO NOT shoot poverty and don't shoot human suffering.

Hope this clarifies a few things?

I hope that you are not misconstruing my comments on your fine pictures.  I think that in the portraits you shared it is clear that you interacted with the people you photographed.  And, better still you do not objectify them.  My point was to suggest some reading on how people in India interact/respond to cameras so that it could enrich your own craft.  As for the question of poverty and inequality, it is there for all to see in India and in most parts of the world.  The main issue for many including me is not the fact that people photograph the poor; but how we do it, what kinds of images we make, and for what ends.

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Babu K Forum Member • Posts: 65
Re: Organised photo shoot business/pics for money etc.

deednets wrote

You sound like you have a deeper insight into all matters Indian!

After 150 trips to India over the last 41 years (yes, one hundred and fifty),  I guess I've picked up a few things. The next 2 trips are lined up already.

Of course, lepers can't fake their disease, but as for able-limbed beggars, there are all kinds. I have known some, who put their arm or leg in plaster and add some red colour to fake a wound. Even if you get duped and give money to a fake beggar, I'm sure it'll be good for your karma!

Sadhus are a very mixed bunch as well, there are criminals among them, people on the run from the law, weirdos (check out the Aghoris), loners, as well as truly spiritual and refined truth seekers.  The latter are relatively few and rarely found in busy public places like the Ganges bathing ghats. But you never know.

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OP deednets Forum Pro • Posts: 10,184
Re: Organised photo shoot business/pics for money etc.

Babu K wrote:

deednets wrote

You sound like you have a deeper insight into all matters Indian!

After 150 trips to India over the last 41 years (yes, one hundred and fifty), I guess I've picked up a few things. The next 2 trips are lined up already.

Of course, lepers can't fake their disease, but as for able-limbed beggars, there are all kinds. I have known some, who put their arm or leg in plaster and add some red colour to fake a wound. Even if you get duped and give money to a fake beggar, I'm sure it'll be good for your karma!

Sadhus are a very mixed bunch as well, there are criminals among them, people on the run from the law, weirdos (check out the Aghoris), loners, as well as truly spiritual and refined truth seekers. The latter are relatively few and rarely found in busy public places like the Ganges bathing ghats. But you never know.

I can't claim 150 trips to India, but have traveled the world extensively over the last 45 years. I guess you can only do so much regarding the fake side of begging.

Varanasi didn't strike me as a spiritually fake place as such only because there are tourists. Western tourists were few, scattered around with little to no inclination to interact with the locals. Any interaction often turns into a sales pitch, which westerners hate with reckless abandon, so if those guys in my pics are using their appearance as a business model, it would be a rather hard one to chose. Most locals I watched gave them coins or rice.

Let me maybe just say, that I might not be cynical enough to smell rats everywhere. I guess we all make our choices in this department.

Why so many trips to India?

Deed

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OP deednets Forum Pro • Posts: 10,184
Re: Sadhu in Varanasi images - 56/1.2 & 35/1.4

biza43 wrote:

Excellent set.

😊

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Babu K Forum Member • Posts: 65
Re: Organised photo shoot business/pics for money etc.

Why so many trips to India?

My favourite country on several levels ... Plus I live only 3-4 hours flying time away and can tie it up with my work.

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OP deednets Forum Pro • Posts: 10,184
Re: Organised photo shoot business/pics for money etc.

Babu K wrote:

Why so many trips to India?

My favourite country on several levels ... Plus I live only 3-4 hours flying time away and can tie it up with my work.

My flight was 12:00 from AKL to KUL then 5:50 to DEL on my way over I had been on my toddles for close to 23 hours "door-to-door" ...

I would go more often I guess if I lived closer, but then I also have strong interests in other places. I will do this 700+ kms Mae Hongson round trip, first going South-West from Chiang Mai, then losely up the Burmese border to Mae Hongson and then back via Pai and one of the most iconic motorbike tours on the planet, those 672 needle bends and curves in strangely light traffic. The Pai/Chiang Mai road a fabulous one, have done it before, but since I also had coffee before and still drink it, it doesn't hurt to ride this part again. I will then also do a little bit of motorbike exploring in Laos, another country of interest of mine.

Have some blurry ideas about my next trips to India, might include Varanasi again as I really enjoyed it on many levels. Also spent some time there with a friend who is fluent in Urdu, Sanskrit and Hindi, which on occasion is of some help where my instincts might give me some wrong signals.

Coming back to those Sadhu: I approached them. Those one that approach me, I often/mostly ignore. But on the Ghats the main sales pitch seems to be boats and not so much photo opportunities. I also often leave my cameras in the bag. Often!!

Deed

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Il Mostro Regular Member • Posts: 189
Re: Sadhu in Varanasi images - 56/1.2 & 35/1.4

Awesome images.  Thanks for sharing them.

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Justin9999 Contributing Member • Posts: 725
How do you get permission?
1

I wish I could talk with about how you go about getting permission to take pictures.  I travel to Asia about 3 times a year, and I’m always too anxious to actually ask for someone’s picture.  I’m an Engineer and I have the stereotypical poor social skills that come with the territory.

At any rate, I hope you are somebody’s mentor.

-- hide signature --

Assume you know a lot more than me and teach me at will.

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yrc4 Forum Member • Posts: 69
Re: How do you get permission?
3

Justin9999 wrote:

I wish I could talk with about how you go about getting permission to take pictures. I travel to Asia about 3 times a year, and I’m always too anxious to actually ask for someone’s picture. I’m an Engineer and I have the stereotypical poor social skills that come with the territory.

At any rate, I hope you are somebody’s mentor.

If its any consolation, I am of Indian origin and struggle to talk to people before taking their pictures...language is not a barrier in most parts of South Asia for me.  However, introvertedness and shyness are a challenge.  The only thing I can suggest is that you have to try and try and once you do it often enough it will get easier.  It does make a difference in some types of street/documentary photography to communicate with your subjects.  In other cases--i.e., looking to capture the decisive moment--you can of course remain quiet and just observe and wait for the right moment.   In most cases, you will be noticed and the best thing to do is to at least try to interact with the people you are photographing.

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ggweci Regular Member • Posts: 222
Re: Sadhu in Varanasi images - 56/1.2 & 35/1.4

deednets wrote:

Now regarding "gear": I took an X-T3 plus the 35/1.4 and the 56/1.2 plus the RX1RII with me that day. I could have gotten away with just those 2 lenses, but thought I would also take the RX1 as it provided me with 35mm/FF. Since the 23/1.4 I also own wouldn't have saved much weight over the RX1 I left it at home.

C&C as always welcome.

Deed

Excellent images Deed!

Regarding the gear, how would you compare the XT3 vs the RX1 in terms of usability and image quality?  Obviously the Fuji will operate much quicker, but outside of that, which is more enjoyable to use and which provides better results in your hands?

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OP deednets Forum Pro • Posts: 10,184
Fuji vs SONY
2

ggweci wrote:

deednets wrote:

Now regarding "gear": I took an X-T3 plus the 35/1.4 and the 56/1.2 plus the RX1RII with me that day. I could have gotten away with just those 2 lenses, but thought I would also take the RX1 as it provided me with 35mm/FF. Since the 23/1.4 I also own wouldn't have saved much weight over the RX1 I left it at home.

C&C as always welcome.

Deed

Excellent images Deed!

Regarding the gear, how would you compare the XT3 vs the RX1 in terms of usability and image quality? Obviously the Fuji will operate much quicker, but outside of that, which is more enjoyable to use and which provides better results in your hands?

Ah, yes now that's an interesting question. The RX1 is incredibly unobtrusive, I also used the camera when I shot people in Varanasi. One Sadhu looked at my camera and laughed, non-offensive laugh, pointing at my RX1 and I looked at him with the same upsetnessness I put on when I bargain for cheap fruit at the local market and said: "What????" ...

He pointed to the camera and said only one word: toy!! I also laughed and said YES!!!!

I love it when it is being considered a toy. Size certainly matters to some!

As far as using the 2 cameras go, I prefer Fuji (any) over the RX1. But there is a place for the RX1 so whenever I want to be completely liberated, I use the SONY. But then I could also take the X-T3 plus the 35/1.4 (NOT the 35/2 tried that and just not the same feel to the pics). But then I would grab the 56/1.2 as well ... and then take the RX1 on top of those ... going round in circles aye? The RX1RII runs at 43Mpx so has its merits.

Here is an image in direct competition to the Fuji:

Deed

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Babu K Forum Member • Posts: 65
Re: Fuji vs SONY

One Sadhu looked at my camera and laughed, non-offensive laugh, pointing at my RX1 and I looked at him with the same upsetnessness I put on when I bargain for cheap fruit at the local market and said: "What????" ...

He pointed to the camera and said only one word: toy!! I also laughed and said YES!!!!

It's a bit similar, when I use my X100F. Some Indians give me a pitiful look and say, 'Sorry, Sir, I don't think you will get reels for that camera here.'

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Babu K Forum Member • Posts: 65
Re: How do you get permission?
2

Justin9999 wrote:

I wish I could talk with about how you go about getting permission to take pictures. I travel to Asia about 3 times a year, and I’m always too anxious to actually ask for someone’s picture. I’m an Engineer and I have the stereotypical poor social skills that come with the territory.

Of course, reactions to a camera are vastly different across Asia, or the world for that matter.

I find India particularly easy, as people are very friendly and most are only too willing to be photographed. Maybe India would be a good training ground for you (if you haven't been there already).

Wherever you go in the world, I always find food a great conversation starter. I always try to find out what the local specialities in a particular area are, then I ask people 'Do you know where I can get so and so (food item)?' Often their eyes just light up and they go 'Oh, you like our food? How do you know this food at all?' And from there on things just roll smoothly.

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OP deednets Forum Pro • Posts: 10,184
Re: Fuji vs SONY
2

Babu K wrote:

One Sadhu looked at my camera and laughed, non-offensive laugh, pointing at my RX1 and I looked at him with the same upsetnessness I put on when I bargain for cheap fruit at the local market and said: "What????" ...

He pointed to the camera and said only one word: toy!! I also laughed and said YES!!!!

It's a bit similar, when I use my X100F. Some Indians give me a pitiful look and say, 'Sorry, Sir, I don't think you will get reels for that camera here.'

Brilliant moments as one can never be too sure how insightful those comments really are. I find Indians across the board seem to have a humour I can totally relate to - as I also have absolutely none

Deed

(reels??)

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OP deednets Forum Pro • Posts: 10,184
How do you get permission? I do - and I don't ... really
2

Justin9999 wrote:

I wish I could talk with about how you go about getting permission to take pictures. I travel to Asia about 3 times a year, and I’m always too anxious to actually ask for someone’s picture. I’m an Engineer and I have the stereotypical poor social skills that come with the territory.

At any rate, I hope you are somebody’s mentor.

When I read your comments I thought you were taking what we call here in NZ the ... (fill the blanks at your own peril...)

OK but then I thought maybe you meant what you wrote?? Dunno, but if you did mean that here is a lose layout as to how I "do" this:

To get this out of the road: I ask, but not in an asking way, but it kind of flows on. I typically talk to people first, often without a language at hand but still talk - and often they talk too. Typically great fun as you can take a lot just from the tone of your voice.

After talking/communicating for a while I simply move on. No camera has shown up, I simply just leave.

So what I am saying is that I think I treat life as such like a "date": if you appear to be too eager to get "results" it won't happen, so you better not be too keen. Any tensions are easily spotted.

But sometimes, when I like somebody's face or facial expression, outfit etc. I show people images I have taken of people, often a mix of children, middle aged people, beauty queens, some dogs, monkeys etc. maybe 10 or so pics. The maybe one of a particularly interesting person. Then see how that comes across. If it doesn't, then it's all good, but if it does find some response then I simply direct, gesture with my hands and making faces and then take photos and then show then those pics. Instant feedback.

Then I show those to some bystanders, depending on rank and importance, the mother who pulls everything towards her has the first pick.

But would I call this "asking permission"?? Dunno, I guess it is a matter of flow without wanting something too much.

The above example is NOT my typical "line" but just one example.

Not sure whether I can actually shed any light on how I do it. Compared to the true National Geographic dudes, I am probably clumsy as ...

But I am ok with that!

Deed

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debo Senior Member • Posts: 2,242
Re: Fuji vs SONY

Thats funny but I can imagine that in VNS

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ggweci Regular Member • Posts: 222
Re: Fuji vs SONY

deednets wrote:

ggweci wrote:

deednets wrote:

Now regarding "gear": I took an X-T3 plus the 35/1.4 and the 56/1.2 plus the RX1RII with me that day. I could have gotten away with just those 2 lenses, but thought I would also take the RX1 as it provided me with 35mm/FF. Since the 23/1.4 I also own wouldn't have saved much weight over the RX1 I left it at home.

C&C as always welcome.

Deed

Excellent images Deed!

Regarding the gear, how would you compare the XT3 vs the RX1 in terms of usability and image quality? Obviously the Fuji will operate much quicker, but outside of that, which is more enjoyable to use and which provides better results in your hands?

Ah, yes now that's an interesting question. The RX1 is incredibly unobtrusive, I also used the camera when I shot people in Varanasi. One Sadhu looked at my camera and laughed, non-offensive laugh, pointing at my RX1 and I looked at him with the same upsetnessness I put on when I bargain for cheap fruit at the local market and said: "What????" ...

He pointed to the camera and said only one word: toy!! I also laughed and said YES!!!!

I love it when it is being considered a toy. Size certainly matters to some!

As far as using the 2 cameras go, I prefer Fuji (any) over the RX1. But there is a place for the RX1 so whenever I want to be completely liberated, I use the SONY. But then I could also take the X-T3 plus the 35/1.4 (NOT the 35/2 tried that and just not the same feel to the pics). But then I would grab the 56/1.2 as well ... and then take the RX1 on top of those ... going round in circles aye? The RX1RII runs at 43Mpx so has its merits.

Deed

Thanks for your thoughts. I currently shoot Sony FF, but definitely miss the experience of my prior Fuji’s.  I’m considering the RX1RII as a companion option that may provide a similar feeling (aperture ring, corner EVF, compact size).

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b0k3h Contributing Member • Posts: 515
with Money

Justin9999 wrote:

I wish I could talk with about how you go about getting permission to take pictures. I travel to Asia about 3 times a year, and I’m always too anxious to actually ask for someone’s picture. I’m an Engineer and I have the stereotypical poor social skills that come with the territory.

At any rate, I hope you are somebody’s mentor.

when I was in India and Nepal, all the sadhus i saw were clearly photography fodder and happy to pose for the passing tourists for money.

OP deednets Forum Pro • Posts: 10,184
Re: with Money

b0k3h wrote:

Justin9999 wrote:

I wish I could talk with about how you go about getting permission to take pictures. I travel to Asia about 3 times a year, and I’m always too anxious to actually ask for someone’s picture. I’m an Engineer and I have the stereotypical poor social skills that come with the territory.

At any rate, I hope you are somebody’s mentor.

when I was in India and Nepal, all the sadhus i saw were clearly photography fodder and happy to pose for the passing tourists for money.

Sadhu live on donations only. I guess it depends on how you perceive the world. Those people in my shots didn't approach me.

But think that what he meant wasn't how to approach willing models 😎

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b0k3h Contributing Member • Posts: 515
Re: with Money

deednets wrote:

b0k3h wrote:

Justin9999 wrote:

I wish I could talk with about how you go about getting permission to take pictures. I travel to Asia about 3 times a year, and I’m always too anxious to actually ask for someone’s picture. I’m an Engineer and I have the stereotypical poor social skills that come with the territory.

At any rate, I hope you are somebody’s mentor.

when I was in India and Nepal, all the sadhus i saw were clearly photography fodder and happy to pose for the passing tourists for money.

Sadhu live on donations only. I guess it depends on how you perceive the world. Those people in my shots didn't approach me.

But think that what he meant wasn't how to approach willing models 😎

i didnt see or say that they approached people, but anyone snapping a picture in their direction, they surely stuck an open palm out.  and most everyone understood the exchange and complied.

the ones around the touristed temple areas, i saw posted and choreographed by tourist-photographers (as in a 10 minute session of gesturing of 'sit here - look there').  it got farcical at the end.

so back to the guys question and worry about "how to get permission', the answer in this case is that its a simple dialogue, non-verbal even.  tit-for-tat and brusque

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